Despite portraying himself as a devout Muslim who forbids all forms of gambling, Gambia’s former President Yahya Jammeh is reported to have paid US$650,000 for a casino.
Mr Jammeh who banned gambling in the Gambia in March 2015 to ‘safeguard and promote the welfare of Gambians against ‘unethical and exploitative businesses’ used his official trip to New York in March 2013 to negotiate the purchase of Dunes Resort and Casino from its former owner, David Ford.
The casino was valued at US$3 million and Mr Ford had earlier rejected an offer of US$ 1.5 million from an unnamed Chinese investor.
According to Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, who once served as Tourism minister and ambassador to Malaysia during Mr Jammeh’s regime, although Mr Jammeh had personally negotiated the purchase of the casino, the paperwork was signed on his behalf by the country’s former Attorney General and minister of Justice, Basirou Mahoney.
A former secretary to the Cabinet during Mr Jammeh’s regime, Noah Touray, said Mr Jammeh used funds from the state-owned Gambia National Petroleum Company (GNPC) to purchase the casino.
He said the money was withdrawn from the company’s Sky Bank or Guaranty Trust Bank accounts.
Mr Jammeh ruled the Gambia from 1994 to 2016 and now lives in exiled in Equatorial Guinea following his surprised defeat in the December 2016 elections.
During his 22 year rule, he declared the Gambia an Islamic state and banned all forms of gambling in the country accusing them of taking advantage of poor Gambians.
He said many families often go hungry because household incomes were wagered in gambling dens.
He added: “While proponents argue that gambling and lotteries could be effective ways to raise taxes, it is clearly evident that these vices often hurt those who are poor and disadvantaged.
“The social and economic costs are enormous and show up in the shattered lives of individuals and their families. Gambians are predominantly followers of Islam and Christianity which both strictly forbid adherents from engaging in gambling, my government will vigorously take all actions to prevent youths from becoming a generation of compulsive and addicted gamblers.”
The ban was lifted earlier this year by the country’s new president, Adama Barrow.
The Gambling industry is one of the highest employers in the Gambia. The industry employs thousands of youths with decent wages and pays millions in tax to the government.